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Last Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Why are abortion rates so high?
Image of teenagers
The government aims to half teenage pregnancies by 2010
Making emergency contraception more available has failed to reduce abortion rates, a family planning professor has said.

Experts give their opinion on why UK abortion rates are still so high and what action is needed.


"Contraceptive services are not working as well as they should. Services are being cut and women are not getting the contraception that they need.

"Also, using methods in advance of sex, like the pill, or during sex, like the condom, is still a problem for many. We do have people who forget or misuse their contraception.

The money that was promised to contraceptive services needs to be delivered

"We would really like to see more widespread use of long-acting contraception, like the injection or the implant. Those methods do not rely on the user to use them successfully. They are fitted in advance and they are highly effective.

"But many men and women do not realise these are available.

"They are available at family planning clinics, but these have been historically underfunded. They are the poor relation of sex health services. Services are being cut.

"Getting good access to contraception and preventing pregnancy is vitally important.

"Abstinence until marriage, given that the average age at marriage in the UK is 29 for women and 30 for men, is not a realistic option for all.

"The money that was promised to contraceptive services needs to be delivered.

"We also need better sex and relationship education in schools."


"The advent of contraception has lowered the unwanted pregnancy rate. But contraception can fail.

"Then there are other factors, such as education. People need to know how to get pregnant and equally how not to get pregnant before they start having sex.

People need to know how to get pregnant and equally how not to get pregnant before they start having sex

"There is a lot of mis-information about that. I do not think that is done well throughout the education system.

"People also get mixed messages from the media about sex and being sexually active.

"At one extreme you have advertising and movies showing that to be successful and sexy you should be sexually active.

"Then you have got this conflicting, conservative, semi-religious culture that does not talk about sex.

"There is a void between these two extremes that should be saying how you get pregnant and how not to get pregnant in a non-judgemental, impartial way.

"There is also an expectation now that women are not going to necessarily continue with unwanted pregnancies.

"Abortion is never an option a woman would take as a preference to not getting pregnant in the first place.

"If it is an option that you are going to take, having abortion available to you as early on in the pregnancy as possible is the better outcome."


"The latest data shows the rate of abortions taking place in under 18s and under 16s has remained the same and the number for under 14s has decreased.

"There are also far more early abortions taking place at under 10 weeks - a key target for Primary Care Trusts across the country.

"In addition, the number of abortions performed at 20 weeks and over has fallen by 9.5%.

"We are working hard to reduce the demand for abortions and have invested 40million to improve access to contraceptive services nationwide - which includes an audit to identify the places where people are having difficulty getting hold of contraception.

"We have also recently reduced the VAT rate on condoms and other contraceptives - making them cheaper than ever before - and are working with the industry to increase the supply of free condoms to high risk groups."


"It is deeply worrying. Instead of asking why the rates are increasing, attempts are being made to continue to make it easier to have an abortion.

"There is an absolute refusal to look at supplementary or alternative methods at reducing teenage pregnancies and abortions.

We ought to be paying much more attention to the wider issues of family breakdown

"The condom and the pill are continuously pushed as the frontline defence.

"But we ought to be paying much more attention to the wider issues of family breakdown.

"Many, many studies show that if children are brought up in a stable family with two parents they stand a much lesser chance of fathering or mothering an unplanned pregnancy than children from a broken family unit.

"It is primary education and helping teenagers to understand why delaying intercourse is a valuable thing.

"Until we have proper funding for organisations like the Romance Academy, that advocate saving sex, we are not going to have any progress.


"One of the reasons that they have risen slightly is probably meeting an unmet need.

"A lot of the rise has been very early abortions so availability and provision, which has been a government push, has been of benefit to women with unplanned pregnancies.

"But there are really serious concerns now about withdrawing contraceptive services. Community family planning services are being removed.

"That is a major issue. If women are unable to access services there really will be a big rise in abortions.

"I'm really concerned it is going to get worse.

"The government is squeezing Primary Care Trusts. When it gave them money for sexual health it never ring-fenced it, so PCTs will use it to pay off debts."


"Access to contraceptive services is extremely difficult. That's the bottom line.

"Family planning clinics are being closed. They run at hours that people can't get to.

"If you are trying to target the teenage population then you need to have clinics that are available and accessible at times that they can go. That's not between 10 and 12 on a Monday morning.

"It's also lack of education.

"There is a huge sexual health strategy at the moment and there is a big push to provide care and services in the community. This will help, but engaging the target population is most important really. And that means more education.

"It means going to schools and telling them how to access family planning clinics."

Emergency contraception
27 Jul 05 |  E-F

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